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The overall EU national policy in the field of gambling

Online gambling in EU

Consistency of the national policy should also be assessed by reference to the gambling sector taken as a whole, in particular in regard to other types of games of chance, which are not subject to the respective monopoly. In this context, the specific differences between games, including their addictive level, should be properly considered.

The Court has recognised that the various types of games of chance can exhibit significant differences, particularly as regards the actual way in which they are organised, the size of the stakes and winnings by which they are characterised, the number of potential players, their presentation, their frequency, their brevity or repetitive character and the reactions which they arouse in players, or by reference to whether, as in the case of games offered in casinos and slot machines in casinos or other establishments, they require the physical presence of the player. (Stoß and Others, par. 95. The CJEU has also clarified that (prohibited) lotteries and (authorised) other games for money, such as football pools or “bingo” might give rise to comparable stakes but they may differ in their objects, rules and methods of organisation in which case those games are not in a comparable situation and they cannot be assimilated. (Case Schindler, par. 50 and 52; Stoß and Others, par. 94))

In those circumstances, the fact that some types of games are subject to a public monopoly while others are subject to a system of authorisations issued to private operators is not, in itself, capable of affecting the suitability of the monopoly to achieve the relevant objectives pursued. (Stoß and Others, par. 96.)

However, in the particular circumstances of the case, the Court acknowledged that the referring courts “may legitimately be led to consider that the fact that, in relation to games of chance other than those covered by the public monopoly […], the competent authorities thus conduct or tolerate policies aimed at encouraging participation in those other games rather than reducing opportunities for gambling and limiting activities in that area in a consistent and systematic manner, has the effect that the objective of preventing incitement to squander money on gambling and combating addiction to the latter, which was at the root of the establishment of the said monopoly, can no longer be effectively pursued by means of the latter, so that the latter can no longer be justified having regard to [Articles 49 and 56 TFEU]”. (Stoß and Others, par. 106.)

Measuring the level of gambling addiction requires an assessment of the danger of certain games of chance. In the Gaming machines case, for example, Norway had chosen to fight gambling addiction through the reduction of gambling opportunities by subjecting the operation of gaming machines to a State-owned monopoly. The EFTA Court considered that an increase in gambling addiction had occurred simultaneously with the increase in gaming machine gambling, and that 81% of the callers of a helpline reported gaming as a problem. Studies presented pointed at gaming machines as the single most potentially addictive form of gambling, due to the structural characteristics of the machines, such as rapid event frequency, the near miss, and light and sound effects. From this, the EFTA Court concluded that gaming machines are more dangerous in terms of leading to gambling addiction than other games lawfully offered on the Norwegian market. Even though other games may also lead to gambling addiction, the EFTA Court could not see this on a comparable scale, and considered in this particular case the marketing and development of other games not relevant when assessing the consistency of the contested legislation. (Case Gaming machines, par. 43.)

In this context, the EFTA Court clarified that “when assessing the consistency of the contested legislation, it is, in the light of the overriding legislative motivation of fighting gambling addiction, essential to put the focus on games with comparable effects with respect to creating such addiction. Whether and to which extent a given game can lead to gambling addiction must be evaluated by taking into account the specific circumstances, including its features, its presentation, the reactions of its potential consumers and the broader socialcultural environment”. (Case Gaming machines, par. 44.)

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